The Beatles’ Performance at the Shea Stadium
The Beatles’ Performance at the Shea Stadium, New York on August 15th, 1965: That Live Show that Set a Attendance Record
The famous English rock group, The Beatles, first visited New York City in 1965 in what emerged as a record-breaking concert of the time in terms of attendance. The performance took place at the Shea Stadium, owned by the baseball team the New York Mets, with over 55,000 people in attendance. In addition to the record attendance, the performance also emerged as the biggest ever gross revenue earner of the time where The Beatles raked in $160,000 of the $304,000 received from the concert.
In an event whose main promoter was Sid Bernstein, 2000 security personnel were deployed to handle the huge and wild crowd. The fans occupied the spectators’ place of the stadium and therefore the stage was far from them. Only the security personnel, the band and their entourage were allowed onto the pitch. It was the first time that a performance by a rock group would take place outdoors and proved to be a success financially as well as in terms of attendance (Lewisohn and Miles, 1965).
The Beatles arrived at the stadium in a Wells Fargo van where they ran to the stage where they were welcomed by wild cheers from the expectant crowd. Earlier plans were to have the group land in the stadium using a helicopter, but the New York authorities disallowed it. However, after being driven from Warwick Hotel to a heliport in a limousine, they were flown over the New York skyline to the World’s Fair building where they boarded the van to the stadium. The flight over the skyline of New York gave them the chance to view the tall skyscrapers of the city. Sullivan Productions in association with a firm owned partly by The Beatles themselves filmed these events. The filming was also boosted by an additional 12 operators of cameras.
During the concert, there were other performances by Cannibal and the Headhunters, Brenda Holloway and King Curtis Band, the Young Rascals and Sounds Incorporated. The proprietor of Sullivan Productions, Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles to the crowd. During their US tour, they were expecting to perform a set containing 12 songs.
When The Beatles finally entered the pitch, they were met by wild cheers which dominated throughout their performance to an extent the 100 watt amplifiers that had been designed for them were not loud enough and they had to use a PA system instead. The mad crowd at the stadium seemed to have just wanted to see the group live, but not hear them perform as the amount of noise and cheers that filled the pitch could not have allowed to be heard throughout their performance. The noise was deafening in manner that they could not hear each other and even the sound they produced. It was chaotic. John Lennon’s efforts to talk to the crowd during the performance as seen in the film footage seemed futile – a clear evidence of how the concert were (J.Henke, 2009).
During their performance, despite the heavy security present, a few fans ran onto the pitch a number of times and had to be chased back to the stands and controlled. As a result of the wild cheering, the Beatles could only play through the list of their songs without knowing the sound they produced. At some point, one of the band members, Lennon played the keyboard using his elbows when he realized how ridiculous it was for them. The Beatles just performed for half an hour after which they ran back to the van and were hurriedly driven off (Robertson, 2009).
Their first ever performance in New York City remains a record-breaking moment for the rock group. It also continues in the memories of many fans of The Beatles.
Lewisohn and Miles, Chronicles and Diaries.(August 15th, 1965) <http://www.maccafan.net/Gallery/SheaStadium/Shea.htm>
The Beatles Bible, Beatles Diary. (August 15th, 1965) <http://www.beatlesbible.com/1965/08/15/live-shea-stadium-new-york/>
J.Henke,Today in Rock:The Beatles Record-Breaking1965 Shea Stadium show< http://rockhall.com/blog/post/6309_today-in-rock–the-beatles-19/>
R. Robertson, Today in Music History: The Beatles at Shea Stadium. (August 15, 2009) < http://www.examiner.com/article/today-music-history-the-beatles-at-shea-stadium>